November 29, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian General Says "Liberation of Golan Heights Is Coming"  (Mehr News-Iran)
    Syrian Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Muhammad Abbas told Mehr News:
    "Like other areas of Syria, the Golan is on the agenda of the government and the army for liberation, and I can say that today we are getting closer to the liberation of the Golan."
    "Today, in Syria we have a strong leader, a strong army and loyal people [as well as] strong allies who are standing next to us."

Somali-Born Man Charged in Attempted Car-Ramming outside Los Angeles Synagogue - Tatiana Diaz and Darran Simon (CNN)
    Mohamed Mohamed, 32, yelled religious epithets at two men outside of a Los Angeles synagogue and tried to run them down on Friday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
    The Seattle man was charged on Tuesday with assault with a deadly weapon - his vehicle - as well as a hate crime.
    Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Horace Frank said Monday that the victims saw Mohamed "run a red light and make a U-turn, accelerate the vehicle at a high rate of speed, deliberately driving that vehicle towards them."
    A security camera captured the car reversing and trying to strike the men again.

Palestinian Arrested in Italy for Plotting to Poison Town's Water Supply - Federico Maccioni (Times of Israel)
    Alaji Aminun, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon with links to the Islamic State, was arrested in Italy on Wednesday for planning a terror attack on the island of Sardinia.
    State anti-terror prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho said Aminun planned to poison the water supply in the town of Macomer, as well as a nearby military base, with ricin and anthrax.
    In September, Lebanese authorities arrested Aminun's cousin on suspicion of plotting to poison the water supply of a military barracks.
    Italian authorities were tipped off to the plot by Interpol, who learned of it from Lebanese authorities.

Israel Blocks Hamas Websites - Oded Yaron and Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Access to the websites of Hamas' military wing has been blocked in Israel over the past week to prevent the distribution of images which Hamas says show Israeli soldiers who took part in a raid in Gaza two weeks ago.

Egyptian Police "Accidentally" Shot at IDF Jeep on Border - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Egyptian police "accidentally" fired shots at an Israeli army jeep near the border on Saturday night, the IDF said Wednesday.
    "We don't think it was deliberately against Israel," the IDF spokesperson said.
    Drug smuggling and other types of criminal activity occur along the Israeli-Egyptian border on a regular basis.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Charges Iranians with Hacking Attacks on U.S. Cities, Companies - Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett
    The Justice Department unsealed charges Wednesday accusing two Iranian men, Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, of hacking into American hospitals, universities, government agencies and the city of Atlanta. More than 200 victims were affected, more than $6 million in ransom was collected and damages exceeded $30 million, officials said.
        "They deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools," Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said. The suspects are believed to be in Iran. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Demands Palestinians Release American Citizen Held for Selling Land to Jews - Barak Ravid
    The Trump administration has demanded that the Palestinian Authority release Palestinian-U.S. citizen Isaam Akel who is currently being held in Ramallah. Akel was arrested two months ago for allegedly selling real estate in eastern Jerusalem to Jews. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted Wednesday: "Akel's incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release."  (Axios)
  • U.S. Troops to Set Up Observation Posts in Northern Syria - Richard Sisk
    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has ordered U.S. troops to set up observation posts in northern Syria with a dual purpose - to warn Turkey of threats and to stop the Turkish military from attacking U.S.-backed opposition forces. "We are putting observation posts in several locations up along the northern Syrian border because we want to be the people who call the Turks and warn them if we see something coming out of an area that we're operating in," Mattis said last week, referring to the U.S. troops working with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to eliminate the last remnants of the Islamic State in Syria.
        He also said the observation posts would give a measure of protection to the SDF, which the Turkish military has occasionally shelled. "What this is designed to do is make sure that the people we have fighting down in the MERV [Middle Euphrates River Valley] are not drawn off that fight and that we can crush what's left of the geographic caliphate."  (Military.com)
  • CNN Commentator Calls for Elimination of Israel, Endorses Violent Palestinian "Resistance" - Philip Klein
    CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill, in a Wednesday speech to the UN, called for violent resistance against Israel and advocated expanding Palestine "from the river to the sea," a phrase used by those who believe that Israel should be eliminated. (Washington Examiner)
        See also Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Calls for Israeli Leadership to Be "Terminated" - David Rutz
    Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Los Angeles, said in a tweet on Sunday that the "murderous regimes" of both Iran and Israel should be "terminated." CAIR is a Muslim advocacy group with ties to extremist and terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. While Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, Israel is a liberal democracy. (Washington Free Beacon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: UNRWA Should Be Shut Down - Ariel Kahana
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told foreign ambassadors and diplomats on Tuesday that UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, should be shut down. "Israel's policy is to close UNRWA. They are the problem, not the solution. Over the years, we have seen how instead of settling the original refugees, UNRWA has acted to increase the number of refugees, as it did when it automatically transferred refugee status from generation to generation," Hotovely said.
        "There is no parallel for this in the world, and it only perpetuates the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict. After 70 years, why are there still Palestinian refugees?...The Jordanian model, in which Jordan de facto naturalized the [Palestinian] refugees, is also the right model for Syria and Lebanon," she said.
        Former Labor MK Dr. Einat Wilf also took part in the briefing and said ongoing Western support for UNRWA constitutes an obstacle to peace, as it is perceived by the Palestinians as implied support for their demand to "return" to Israel. (Israel Hayom)
  • Chad Said to Condition Resumed Ties with Israel on "Extensive" Weapons Sales - Tamar Pileggi
    Senior Israel Foreign Ministry officials said that Chad's President Idriss Deby presented a "very extensive" list of demands, including significant arms sales, as a condition for renewing ties, Israel's Channel 10 reported Wednesday. Chad is one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State jihadists in West Africa. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Israel Can't Just Walk Away from the West Bank - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Peter Lerner
    The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is 82 and suffers from failing health. He has no clear successor, and a power struggle will most surely happen within his own camp once he leaves the stage. At the same time, Hamas is preparing to pounce in order to challenge the Palestinian Authority's West Bank leadership.
        Topography and geography play a key role in the strategic debate about peace with the Palestinians. The West Bank is a mountain ridge that Israel requires in order to safeguard its civilians. In the shadows of the West Bank's hills, between Haifa and Ashkelon, lies 70% of Israel's population and 80% of its industry. Anyone who controls that mountainous area controls everything beneath it. With Iranian leaders calling Israel a cancerous tumor and eyeing Jordan as its next playground, can any Israeli leadership relinquish security control over such a strategic asset?
        The writer served for 25 years in the IDF as a spokesperson and liaison officer to international organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sanctioning Hizbullah
    Hizbullah's emergence as Iran's key regional proxy has prompted additional U.S. efforts to choke off the terror group's finances. Sanctions will likely be ineffective because Hizbullah is a sub-state actor with few connections to the formal global economy. The ineffectiveness of sanctions will likely increase calls to target Hizbullah with direct military action. (Soufan Group)

Iran Prepares for Escalation on Israel's Northern Border - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel is concerned that Iran is beginning preparations to inflame its northern border with Syria via Hizbullah. The Iranian leadership is sure that Israel is weak, and this is the right time to strike against it.
  • On Nov. 24, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei told the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran: "The Zionist enemy crumpled against the Palestinian resistance [in Gaza] after only two days....All this proves that the Zionist regime is significantly weakened....The pace of weakening is increasing."
  • Senior security sources in Israel suspect that Gen. Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria and Lebanon, is planning to deploy Hizbullah and pro-Iranian forces close to the border fence on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights to lay mines and IEDs, fire anti-tank missiles at IDF patrols, and launch mortar attacks on Israeli communities in the Golan Heights.
  • Iran will also seek to construct factories inside Lebanon to upgrade the missiles in the possession of Hizbullah to make them capable of hitting strategic targets deep in Israel more accurately. These targets include Ben-Gurion Airport, the atomic reactor in Dimona, refineries in Haifa, and IDF bases.

    The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center.